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Delectable Dahlias

Follow these great suggestions for good picks in each of the dahlia categories.

Dahlia 'Akita', a "decorative" dahlia

Few plant families offer as much variety and dazzle as dahlias. Tall and short and in between, cactus-shaped, pompoms, daisy-like and dinner-plate, it's hard to know how to choose. Colors range from red to white, orange, yellow, pink, purple and hundreds of shades in between. All bloom vigorously from midsummer through fall and all are fabulous.

Here, from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center, is a "best-bets List" of top dahlias. While not exhaustive, the list offers a launch pad from which to explore the wide and wonderful world of dahlias. All are widely available, either as tubers or bare-root plants and many are also available as bedding plants. For a description of each type of dahlia, consult the glossary at the bottom of this page.

Giant "dinner-plate" dahlias

Each of these zoftig plants produces up to a dozen 9- to 11-inch flowers per season on sturdy stems towering four feet or more. Plant them three feet apart.

  • 'Babylon Bronze' (decorative), golden marigold-orange
  • 'Barbarossa' (decorative), vivid red
  • 'Café au Lait' (decorative), cream tinged with light brown
  • 'Duet' (decorative), petals dark red with white tips
  • 'Fleural' (decorative) bright white
  • 'Kelvin's Floodlight' (decorative), sunny yellow
  • 'Lilac Time' (decorative), deep dusky blue-violet
  • 'Mick's Peppermint' (cactus), white flecked and striped with fuchsia
  • 'Mistery Day' (decorative), purplish-red petals edged in white
  • 'Night Queen' (ball), deepest wine red, almost black
  • 'Otto's Thrill' (decorative), perfect apricot-pink flowers
  • 'Rosella' (decorative), brilliant violet-rose
  • 'Thomas Edison' (decorative), dark velvety purple

    Best for Cutting

    All dahlias make tremendous cut flowers--the more you cut them, the more they bloom. Still, some are considered superstars. Among some of the most desirable dahlias for cutting are:

  • 'Alfred Grille' (cactus), salmon-pink with bright yellow center
  • 'Brio' (Anemone), orange-red
  • 'Caribbean Fantasy' (decorative), white splashed with flamboyant red and yellow markings
  • 'Deepest Yellow' (ball), true yellow
  • 'Eveline' (ball), white tinged with violet
  • 'Glory of Heemstede' (decorative), water lily look, yellow
  • 'Karma Sangria' (semi-cactus), hot pink with gold highlights
  • 'Karma Lagoon' (decorative), iridescent violet purple
  • 'Mrs. Eileen' (decorative), glowing tangerine-orange
  • 'My Love' (cactus), white
  • 'Night Queen' (ball), deepest wine red or claret – almost black
  • 'Osaka' (decorative), a Shogun Dahlia, vivid yellow tipped in white
  • 'Red Majorette' (semi-cactus), bright red
  • 'Red Velvet' (decorative), vivid red
  • 'Requiem' (decorative), hot pink
  • 'Rip City' (semi-cactus), nearly black flowers
  • 'Snowflake' (pompom), pure white, often with yellow center

    Dahlias with "black" foliage

    The foliage isn't really black, but it's near enough to have that effect in the garden:

  • 'Bishop of Llandaff' (semi-double/heirloom), garnet flowers & mahogany foliage
  • 'Classic Poeme' (semi-double), multi-petaled pink flower with darker rose
  • 'Fascination' (semi-double/peony), violet-rose flowers with greenish-black foliage
  • 'Roxy' (anemone/single-flowered), lilac-rose with blackish-green foliage
  • 'Sunshine' (mignon), golden yellow flowers with orange centers, mahogany foliage

    Dahlia Classic Series (decorative), all with dark foliage, including: 'Elise' (orange), 'Masquerade' (orange), 'Rosamunde' (pink), 'Swanlake' (white) and 'Thais' (pink).

    Dahlias great for containers and low borders

    For containers and low borders, the best choices are the shorter dahlias with more compact shapes. Keep well watered, place in full sun. You can count on these powerhouses to produce abundant blooms from summer through fall – with some producing up to 40 flowers per plant:

  • 'Berliner Kleene' (decorative), blush pink, 15-inches
  • 'Brio' (Anemone), orange-red, 16-inches
  • 'Claudette' (decorative), plum purple, 15-inches
  • 'Park Princess' (cactus), blush pink, 22-inches
  • 'Tout à Toi' (decorative), salmon & peach, 20-inches
  • 'Yellow Happiness' (cactus), bright yellow, 22-inches

    Dahlia Topmix Collection: Daisy-like flowers in white, pink, yellow, maroon and orange, on 15-inch stems. Sold by individual colors or mixed.

    Dahlia Gallery Collection: Decorative flowers in white, red, yellow, lilac, red, peach, orange or bronze. Stems 12- to 20-inches. No pinching to maintain shape. Samples: 'Art Deco', bronze with red center; 'Rembrandt', rose with creamy white center; 'Cezanne', bright yellow.

    Dahlinova Collection: true miniatures under 10-inches tall, bred for containers, windowboxes and low borders. A sampling includes: 'Arizona Red', bright red; 'Colorado', white; Dahlinova Mixed.

    Plant the tubers outside after the risk of frost has passed. They're hardy only in Zone 9 and south, so they have to be dug and stored over the winter in colder zones.

    Glossary:

    Anemone: These dahlias have one or more rows of flat petals arranged in a wreath. Relatively short, they average about 15 inches tall.
    Ball: Similar to pompoms, but the flowers are larger and less spherical.
    Cactus, semi-cactus: Both types have double flowers with long-pointed ray flowers that roll back along half their length, giving the flowers a spiked look. Most cultivars reach more than 40 inches tall.
    Collarette: Small to medium flowers with large flat ray petals surrounding an open center. With the ray and surrounding the center is a wreath of shorter petals, often of a different color, forming the "collar."
    Decorative: Double flowers with broad, flat-tipped petals that are sometimes wavy. Flowers are usually large, and the plants easily top 40 inches.
    Mignon: Single, open flowers with a prominent yellow disc in the center. The plants range in height from 12 to 20 inches.
    Peony-flowered: Semi-double flowers with an open center.
    Pompon: Double, globe-shaped, relatively small flowers. The petals form little tubes that roll back along their entire length. Pompoms usually grow more than 40 inches tall.

    Series:

    Dahlianova: Double-flowering varieties. They average 8 to 12 inches tall.
    Gallery: Cactus and doecrative varieties, which generally grow 12 to 24 inches tall.
    Impression: Small colarette dahlias suitable for bedding and perfect for use in pots on balconies and patios.
    Topmix: Dwarf dahlias, with heights around 10 to 12 inches and flowers only an inch or so across.

    --Information provided by the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

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